Health Information You Can Trust
Another insightful article by our international correspondent Paula, Librarian at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Weston-super-Mare, UK.
Multi-sectoral partnerships bring vital information to rural England.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw just how important it was to have accurate, trusted healthcare information. As part of that, every summer, there is a national campaign in the UK to help people access exactly that. It’s been running for a little over 15 years, and each year lessons from the previous year are incorporated.
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In 2022, Health Information Week (#HIW2022) is a multi-sectoral event, with libraries from many different disciplines joining in — school libraries, public libraries, and healthcare libraries. Presently, a high percentage of participants come from healthcare libraries, but there is great scope for partnership working.
Our own joint project work with the public libraries is progressing rapidly, with the iPad loan system about to be extended and further work underway to raise awareness of the well-thought-out resources already out there. In our services, we’re huge fans of the HON Code and the PIF Tick as indicators of information quality. We also signpost enquirers to numerous other resources from our own National Health Service (NHS) and other organisations.
In 2022, every day in Health Information Week had a different theme, which included:
- Translated patient information (into languages other than English)
- Long Covid — specialist clinics have been established in the UK, including one in Somerset, and part of our work has been to keep the clinicians notified of new developments via a semi-regular alert
- Kidney Health — this is one of the most common conditions that physicians around the world encounter and need to help patients manage
- Media Literacy — along with health literacy, this is a major theme in healthcare information in the UK — how do you know whether you can trust what you see on TV or in the papers?
- Heart Healthy — like Kidney Conditions, Heart Conditions are all too common in such a high proportion of the world’s population
- Arthritis — this long-standing (chronic) condition affects a high percentage of individuals
The themes were intended as guidance, not directives, but they provided a very useful framework. The National Team had put together a very informative website, including an “ideas bank” if we were short on time. As none of us has ever yet met a librarian who wasn’t short on time, we made sure we took a good look at the suggested activities and then cherry-picked the ones that we thought would have the highest impact and be most appropriate for our target audience.
Somerset is a very rural county, and its pleasant climate means it’s very popular with seniors and retirees. Some of those individuals have very complex care needs, although we are always careful to point out that we’re not healthcare professionals. We’re librarians. We can signpost, but not advise. (That’s where our links with the Health Coaches and others come into play.)
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There were Twitter campaigns (national and local), updated LibGuides, and staffed stands, including joint working with our public library colleagues (it’s still quite odd to be back in a world where we can see people in face-to-face settings again).
We had another small but perfectly formed nationally-funded book collection to launch, which was yet another joint venture between the Reading Agency and Health Education England (you can see the theme, I suspect!). My personal favourite of the books on the list is A Manual for Being Human, although several of the other titles also strike a chord. (The full list is available.)
We also had a lunchtime stall in the foyer of the main hospital (which requires more organising than you might think! As you can imagine, the Hospital Trust is super-sharp when it comes to health and safety). We took along various readable goodies for people to sample, including books, and incorporated a free draw for a small hamper of delicious (but terrifyingly healthy) snacks and edible goodies. The hamper was won, appropriately enough, by one of our Allied Health Professionals — they’re the clinicians who are physiotherapists, pharmacists, occupational therapists, and a host of other professions that aren’t doctors or nurses. They use the NHS library services regularly and are always great sports when it comes to joining in events. We have several AHPs as our Library Ambassadors, who are invaluable when it comes to helping us spread the word about how we can help clinicians with their information needs.
The evaluations will be starting shortly to decide what went well, what could maybe be tweaked for future years, and any lessons learned from work at other organizations. In previous years, case studies included “The Living Library”, where individuals volunteered to be “books” and talk about their chronic conditions to “borrowers”, and increased awareness of well-being collections and space available.
If you’d like to read more about this year’s campaign, visit the website.